Unlike the size of my penis, as an investor I’m kind of small. I don’t have millions of dollars to put to work. I can’t call up anybody at Goldman Sachs and have them take me seriously. I don’t even have the kind of cash to buy myself love for any longer than a couple of hours. Don’t worry, I’ve learned my lesson. I won’t be doing that again. This week.
Being a small investor isn’t such a big deal most of the time. Online brokers give you access to cheap stock trades. Research is almost as plentiful as porn on the interwebz. Financial advisors will typically give you the time of day, mostly because they basically view you with a giant dollar sign instead of a face.
There’s one asset class where it kinda sucks to be a small fry, and that’s in the world of fixed income. The pricing of stocks is incredibly transparent. Your broker will be able to tell you the bid and the ask price of any security, at any time. You can use that information to pay the lowest price possible and still get your shares. The problem is bonds aren’t so transparent.
When you buy bonds using your online stockbroker, all you’re presented with is their list of bid and ask prices, usually in $1000 increments. You don’t know what commission you’re paying because it’s not transparent. The industry standard is 0.5%, but there’s no guarantee you’re not paying more, especially if you’re only buying $1000 lots at a time.
If you don’t want to buy individual bonds, what are your fixed income options? Luckily, there are a few. So listen up, sparky.
Bond ETFs – Bond ETFs are a terrific way for the individual investor to immediately get a diversified basket of bonds. ETFs are liquid, come with low management fees, and run all the way up and down the risk spectrum. These are all good things.
Preferred Shares – What if you’re looking to cherry pick certain names that you think will get you a little extra yield? I’m a fan of preferred shares. Sure, you gotta research each one so you know exactly what you’re getting into, but often you can get a higher yield than a comparable bond by only taking a little extra risk. Or you can buy an ETF of preferred shares, if that floats your boat.
Term Deposits – Sure, often term deposit rates are a little low, at least compared to assets that are a little riskier. But they offer something very important, and that’s a full government guarantee of your principal. They’re also incredibly easy to set up, and you can get your cash back in about 49 seconds if you go visit the cute girls who work at the bank. Sometimes a little liquidity is a good thing.
REITS – Now we’re moving a little higher up the risk spectrum, as REITs are generally a little more volatile compared to their other fixed income cousins. They make up for it by offering more yield, as well as a greater potential for capital gains. And hey, you can walk around the downtown of some city and brag about the small piece of some office building you own. But don’t try to move into your claimed space. Security will not be pleased.
Private Mortgages – What can I say? I get a little hard in the pants when I think of the succulent returns I’ve gotten over the years by lending money privately. I’ll admit it’s tough to get started, but maybe you should try.
So there you go. Now the only excuse you have for not owning any fixed income is because yields are terrible. That might be a valid excuse.